In April of 2007, a passing helicopter spotted a yacht drifting off the Great Barrier Reef with tattered sails and called in the sighting as a potential distress call.
When Queensland Emergency Management officials boarded the Kaz II two days later, they found a ship in near-perfect operating condition, with the engine still running, GPS and radio functioning perfectly, all three lifejackets still stowed, and a full meal set up at the dining table.
The Kaz II was found to be the property of Derek Batten, who had set out on a pleasure cruise with neighbors Peter and James Tunstead less than a week earlier, and a forensic investigation found nothing out of the ordinary other than a video recording taken shortly after they set out.
The footage helped establish the boat’s position at the time it was recorded but also contained an odd detail. The safety rails were rigged with fenders, foam bumpers used to prevent damage incurred by bumping into wharves (in harbor) or other ships (at sea).
The official conclusion was a plausible but complicated accident where one man fell off, another fell in trying to rescue him, and the third was knocked over by a swinging boom.
The families of the victims, however, focused on the fenders, arguing that the three men were too experienced to have all fallen prey to simple accident and that the fenders indicated they were expecting contact with another ship—possibly an unfriendly one.